Saturday, June 30, 2012

Please, Keep 'Em Down On The Farm

Ho, hum, another three game losing streak and reservation at a table in the cellar.

We worried about the offense and believed the pitching, at least the starting and closing portions, would keep the Phils competitive.  How were we to know Cliff Lee would be winless at mid-season and Roy Halladay would be on the DL.  If I were to guess, Lee's oblique strain has never fully healed and his arm slot (ain't that a term for the age?) if not his strength is not back to normal.  All we know by just watching is he isn't fooling anyone with his stuff.

The middle and set-up portions of the bullpen are terrible.  The Phils' alleged brain trust is reduced to bringing up anyone with a pulse to try and find a solution.

The offense, meanwhile, sputters and stumbles, unable to develop consistency or rhythm.  The numbers show the Phils are scoring runs, but the situational hitting is miserable and few players seem to be able to rattle off consistency at the same time.

The scuttlebutt suggests the Phils won't be sellers at the trade deadline.  They should get rid of anyone who could bring good to excellent prospects because if we've learned nothing else thus far this season it is that there ain't nothin' down on the farm.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Stuff Dreams Are Made Of

Chase knows drama.  The bullpen doesn't.

Making his 2012 debut a week before the traditional mid-point of the season, Chase Utley homered in his first at bat.  He was followed by blistering hot Carlos Ruiz, who homered to give the Phils a 2-0 lead over Pittsburgh.  Regrettably, the bullpen didn't get the script before the proceedings got underway and failed to realize the Phils were supposed to win this one.

Why, inquiring fans want to know, are Chad Qualls and Joe Slavery still on a major league roster at this point?  Because casting for sacrificial lambs closed a few weeks ago.

Utley's will-he-or-won't-he comeback story had the stuff of Hollywood written all over the opening act.  Whether he will come back after intermission (he is being given today day off as planned) remains to be seen, but at least we know the guy is giving his all.  So, too, are Qualls et al, the problem being they don't have much to give to begin with!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012


The Phils took their second straight game from the visiting Bucs last night and before you say "of course", take a look at the standings in the NL Central.  The Phils would like to have Pittsburgh's 38-35 record right about now.

Last night's heroes were a diverse group, but two guys get special mention in my part of the ether.  Carlos Ruiz continued his torrid hitting, taking over the NL batting lead with a 3-5 night including what turned out to be the game-winning home run.  What more can we say about Chooch?  He does everything but drive the team bus.  Indeed, he made what might have been a game saving tag for the third out in an inning in which the Pirates looked like they were going to take the lead.

That play brings us to our second hero of the evening, John Mayberry.  Whether or not he is scuffling at the plate, Mayberry is one solid defender with a tremendously accurate arm.  His throw nailed the aforementioned runner and probably saved the Phils' bacon.  Mayberry should be in the starting lineup every day, no matter who's pitching.  It won't happen, of course, because Charlie Manuel plays things strictly by the book, but last night's effort underscored how valuable Mayberry is.  It's time to give him a full-time chance to sink or swim as a major league starting player.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Let's Lose Two!

Anyone still harboring fantasies of a playoff spot should wake up and smell the cellar.

It's damp, musty, mildewed and in desperate need of a clean out.

The Phils dropped two to visiting Tampa Bay yesterday, quashing their own momentum from Saturday night's dramatic comeback win, denying Cole Hamels a well-deserved win in the opener, and extending Cliff Lee's winless streak to mid-season in the night cap.

The Phils could have tied the opener late in the game despite Antonio Bastardo's major league effort to lose it.  They had a man on third with one out in the eighth but John Mayberry and Shane Victorino failed to produce.  Let's not single out any one player, BUT as has been said in this space before, Victorino should be ordered to bat right-handed no matter who is on the mound.  His left-handed swings look worse than those of an Aussie trying to learn the game for the first time.

Charlie Manuel has been second guessed a lot for lifting Hamels yesterday, but it's pointless to belabor the issue.  He, pitching coach Rich Dubee, and Hamels himself all believe in pitch counts and Cole had nearly reached his at the conclusion of business in the top of the seventh.  Insert here my wife's favorite expression:  there are rules of reason and rules of administration.  At the very least you send Hamels out to start the eighth inning.  Is there a manager less flexible than Charlie?  Well, on Saturday night he won his 900th game at the helm of a major league team, an admirable and enviable accomplishment.  So, what do I know?

Without benefit of a statistician, it appears to be the Phillies' normally free-swinging lineup is trying to be more patient at the plate.  How do I arrive at this tentative conclusion?  I watched batter after batter take a first pitch strike right down Broad Street.  Now, only a batter who walks up to the plate predetermined to take the first pitch could lay off some of the fat ones I saw yesterday.  Yes, yes, I know, it's easy for me to sit on my couch and wonder why, but, then, I'm not being paid millions of dollars.  My advice is free, gratis and for nothing.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

All Pound The Conquering Hero

Speaking of momentum (see last post), the concerns that Jim Thome would lose his edge once he reverted to occasional pinch-hitting appearances disappeared into the left field stands last night as the big guy stroked a walk-off home run against Tampa Bay, leading the Phils to a comeback 7-6 victory.

The homer, his 609th, tied Thome with Cheatin' Sammy Sosa for seventh place on the all-time list.  It was also manager and good friend Charlie Manuel's 900th career win.  In the short run, it was also the Phils second late-game comeback of the week, a hallmark of previous clubs' in recent glory years, but markedly absent most of this season.

Their mini-resurgence coupled with word Chase Utley is about to join the club, have many observers urging the Phils resist the temptation to sell at the approaching trade deadline.  If anyone has been scrutinizing Utley's performance in Florida against a bunch of newbies, hopefuls and haven't-been-yets, I wouldn't get too excited.  (Reverse curse alert!!)

In other random news, Jimmy Rollins has been on a tear lately.  Only recently many observers including yours truly have lamented the slip in J-Rolls defensive game and, for most of the season, his fall-off offensively as well.  Isn't it just like Jimmy to rally when we've all but given up on him?  And isn't it a familiar and welcome feeling to muse "as goes Jimmy...."?

Cliff Lee was apparently pissed off he had to warm up Friday night, throw 30 or so pitches in the bullpen, and then watch the inevitable rain-out be declared.  Cliff has been pissed off a lot lately.  First, at Shane Victorino's defense, then at his teammates in general for a lack of support, and finally at unnamed management and coaching staff, for having him prepare for a game everyone but the weatherman knew was going to be called.  A win today would smooth his ruffled feathers; a loss would make him wonder why he ever came back to town.

Jonathan Papelbon hasn't exactly be lights out lately.  After getting little opportunity to show his stuff during the last few weeks, the Phils' closer has been coming into tight games and pitching like, well, the rest of the bullpen; that is to say, not so good.  Last night he coughed up a two-run lead in the ninth inning only to see Thome save his bacon.  Apparently, however, the victory didn't save Papelbon $5000.  Apparently, Papelbon offered to cut a check immediately to anyone who bailed him out with a walk-off hit.  When Thome rounded third base last night and approached home plate for the traditional walk-off hero's pounding, Papelbon grabbed him by the neck and for all appearances looked like he planted a big fat kiss on the big guy. 

Speaking of those walk-off celebrations at the plate, I love to look at the individual expressions and gestures of the gathering.  Half of the guys always seem to be looking down at the plate to make sure the conquering hero touches it.  The other half are caught in frozen moments of glee and preparation for various assaults on the hero's body.  I am always amazed there aren't more injuries during the festivities.  I know one thing:  half of the guys in the spotlight run for their lives as soon as they touch the plate.

Friday, June 22, 2012

So Much for Momentum

The Phils squandered what little momentum they've been able to generate this season dropping the final game of the 3-game set with Colorado at home.  The usual culprits, lack of timely hitting and a pitiful bullpen, were to blame.  Oh, and while you're at it, throw in an anemic effort against a lousy starting pitcher.

Those fans who've been whistling by the graveyard all season should probably just take a new route.  Not only do the Phils lack the consistency normally associated with veteran teams but they have the added disadvantage of trying to fill holes with unproven youngsters or has-beens.  I speak of the bullpen in case you were wondering.

And just to make sure you heed my advice about taking new routes, bear this in mind:  Chase Utley sports a .193 batting average thus far in his rehab starts against SINGLE A pitching.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Luck Takes Wrong Turn, Smiles On Phillies

Where is it written beating up on a lousy team doesn't count?

The Yankees of the 50's used to crush the also-rans and play .500 against the good teams.  That's how pennants are won.  Every year.

The Phils not only took their second straight from the Tulo-less Rockies, they did it in all-too-unfamiliar fashion this season by coming from behind in their last AB.  OK, so Todd Helton, who makes an error about as often as a visit from Haley's Comet, missed the bag at first base on what turned out to be the winning play, but when it comes to luck, the Phillies have been overdue for a very long time.

* * * * * * * *

John Mayberry has been hitting the ball well lately and was rewarded with another start, this time against a righthander no less.  In a pregame interview on DNL, Mayberry came across as a very bright kid who recognizes success is mostly about confidence.  Charlie Manuel hasn't handled Mayberry well this year.  True, Mayberry has suffered through some awful spells, but the Phils' alleged brain trust is almost always impatient with young players and cannot bring themselves to say to them, "We don't care how many collars you wear, the job is yours!"  Mayberry has been in and out of the lineup too often to develop a rhythm or the confidence that comes from experience.  He isn't a rookie any longer, but he is still young enough to need the opportunity to play every day without worrying one bad night will cost him another chance.  If he turns out to be a .275 hitter with power who can field well, I'd be thrilled and so would the Phillies.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Et Tu, Freddy?

Freddy, we hardly knew ya'.  At least we hardly knew you had it in ya'.  Ironic, no?  Like virtually every other ballplayer to test positive, you hardly knew you had it in you either!

There are always going to be players who try and get away with it.  The only way to keep those numbers to the absolute minimum is for teams to tell their prospects, look, MLB is going to suspend you fifty games if they catch you while we are going to suspend you for an entire year!

Fat chance.

The Steroid Era, Freddy notwithstanding, may have come to a prosecutorial end with the Roger Clemens virdict, which had nothing to do with whether or not he used steroids.  It won't have come to an end in the public and baseball writers' minds when the HOF ballot is announced for next year.  Some really, really big names thought to have used the juice will be appearing for the first time.  Those guys, and you know who you are, can only hope the current voters among the writers retire before their eligibility for the ballot expires.

* * * * * * * *

The Phils limped home Sunday night and prepared to face a team worse than they are in the Colorado Rockies.  The Rockies obliged by dropping the first of a three-game set 7-2.  Cole Hamels survived a shaky first inning to go eight innings for his tenth win and first decent start in his last five.

Carlos Ruiz continued his torrid pace at the plate.  Chooch is still running number three in the All Star balloting for the starting spot as a receiver, further evidence (as if we needed it) of just how pathetic the whole fan balloting thing is.  That said, I received an email from the author/owner of a web site built solely to promote Chooch's election.  The site was built to easily accommodate those fans who like to vote early and often.  I obliged with about six or seven votes before tiring of the whole thing.  The spam filters on these damn things makes it too much of an arbeit and I felt guilty anyway having railed against MLB for permitting one to vote up to 25 times.  I was appalled how easily I compromised my principles just to help out a guy who was deserving.  Compounding my guilt, I forwarded the link to a friend with an even wider moral streak than my own, appending it with a note that voting multiple times went against my convictions but since it ws the coin of the realm I was caving in.  I received the reply I expected:  he was even more dismayed than I though he noted the realm was already full of counterfeit as it was.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Plenty Of Blame To Go Around

The Phils limped out of Toronto yesterday afternoon, tails between their legs.  It would be tempting to say they will be glad to come home, but a quick check of their record at the Bank reveals they have a losing record there.

Oh, well, it was just a thought....

It isn't as easy to point fingers at this group as their grip on last place would suggest.  So many players are having miserable seasons.  In no particular order...

1.  Shane Victorino is lunging at every pitch these days.  He has never looked as uncomfortable at the plate as he has this season.  He has been nursing an injured hand, which would explain why he's lunging, but if that's the case he should sit until he has healed.  He isn't helping anyone with the way he's been playing, least of all himself in this, his walk year.  As for his base-running, he nearly always neutralizes a steal with a bonehead play like getting doubled off second base.

2.  Kyle Kendrick will never be a reliable pitcher.  The numbers suggest he's an average fifth starter.  His dependability suggests he's a AAA pitcher with a big league roster spot given the overall dilution at the position.

3.  Placido Polanco's string of injuries has rendered him a fading veteran.  Once, he was tough to strike out and was always seen as a guy who would put his bat on the ball, move a runner or do the little things to help the team.  Now, he's a shadow of his former self.  It's a shame; Polanco has always been my idea of a true pro.

4.  Hunter Pence has one of the worst swings I've ever seen.  Why anyone would throw him anything except stuff low and away is beyond me.  He won't make anyone forget Roberto Clemente in right field, either.

5.  The best thing the Phils could do for Jim Thome is to trade him right now to an American League team where he can DH full time.  He has earned that opportunity.

6.  Jimmy Rollins will be a Phillie for 2.5 more years, or exactly two years longer than will benefit the team.  Jimmy has never learned plate discipline.  Arguments over whether or not he is a prototypical leadoff man have long since faded.  Now, I'd be satisfied if he would just work the count and lay off high stuff.

7.  From The Four Aces & Worley to Hamels, Worley, Blanton, Lee and Kendrick.  Is it any wonder?

8.  Ty Wiggiton should be given the same opportunity as Thome.  Ty is not a big league fielder.

9.  John Mayberry should be given an every day job period.  First base.  Left Field.  Center Field.  Just put him in there and let him finally sink or swim.

10.  Juan Pierre has been a revelation.

11.  Carlos Ruiz refuses to give in to all the slings and arrows.  He remains the backbone of this team.

12.  Jonathan Papelbon must be wondering whether four years and fifty million dollars will compensate for the agonies he will be facing, not the least of which is a manager who doesn't know how to use him.

13.  Antonio Bastardo is becoming the Kyle Kendrick of the relief corps.  One never knows whether or not he can be relied on.

14.  Michael Martinez and Mike Fontenot are living proofs the talent pool in major league baseball is watered down.

15.  Hector Luna is with his fifth club.  Watching him bail Martinez out yesterday on a pop fly (Martinez elected to leave his sunglasses in the dugout during a day game with the roof open), it's hard to imagine he was let go by the previous four teams for lack of hustle.  He needs to see more playing time.

16.  In the comings and goings department, Brad Lidge appears to reached the end of the road.  He had quite the adventurous ride.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

"L" Is For Losing

There may not be an "eye" in team, but there sure must be an "el" in there somewhere. 

Yesterday's loss to Toronto unfolded collectively in the bottom of the eighth inning.  Cliff Lee was on the mound, pitching with a three run lead.  With Juan Bautista on first via a walk, Edwin Encarnacion hit a line drive single to left.  John Mayberry didn't exactly hustle to pick up the ball and when he reached it he threw to the wrong bag.  Indeed, he didn't throw to any official bag, hitting cutoff man Jimmy Rollins who was in short left field behind short stop. Rollins took the ball and threw wildly to second where he had Encarnacion dead to rights.  The ball skipped all the way to foul territory and both runners scored.  Suddenly, a three run lead was down to one.  A moment later it was a tie game.  Once again, Cliff Lee failed to hold a lead or win a game, the Phils' once-vaunted defense collapsed and the game was eventually lost in extra innings.

Lee did not look sharp at all yesterday.  He failed to get his curve over and the Blue Jays' batters sat on his fastball.  Lee surrendered twelve hits in the game and remains winless with the All Star break looming in a few weeks.  Chad Qualls and Joe Savery were lousy again.  Qualls would have been released a long time ago were it not for the desperation of his employers.  Oh, and one of the best (and most expensive) closers in the game just sits and watches.

Lack of timely hitting.  Poor or lackadaisical defense.  Shaky starting pitching and a bullpen that implodes most of the time.  Add it up and you've got a last place team.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Another Night, Another Injury

What exactly did the Phillies do to offend the Gods of Health?

Carlos Ruiz is the latest and most valuable Phillie to suffer an injury that will probably land him on the Disabled List.  Worse, it might prevent Carlos from being named to his first All Star game.  Frankly, with the way this season is going for the Phils, the latter would be a bigger shame than his loss for regularly scheduled games.  Ruiz deserves the honor.  If he's on the DL, he probably won't get it.

The only injury the Phils have collectively managed to escape thus far is the plague...unless of course one counts the inability to hit the ball consistently.  Last night's loss to the Blue Jays, the second sub-500 AL team the Phutiles have faced in the last four games, was one of those desultory losses you could see coming by the third inning.

Starter Vance Worley deserved better.  He pitched effectively enough.  Once again, Mike Fontenot made an error that led to an unearned run.  There's a reason the Giants released Fontenot earlier this season.

Normally, I don't pay a lot of attention to the Phils color commentators.  Indeed, I watch many games with the sound muted.  Last night, however, I listened as Chris Wheeler wondered aloud why players like Michael Martinez, aptly named Minimart, held the bat at the bottom of the handle, swung from the heels and produced long strokes guaranteed to produce undesirable results.  OK, Minimart is young and presumably not overburdened, but don't his coaches and manager have anything to tell him?  Couldn't Greg Gross, with Charlie Manuel's blessing, tell him to choke up or take a seat?

The Phils are the most impatient lineup I've ever seen and since many are veterans, it is inexcusable.  At this point I blame management for not enforcing some discipline, but what do you expect when the head honcho is in love with the long ball?

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Hats Off To Thome

Jim Thome refuses to go away, fortunately.

Written off for dead by everyone including this "expert", Thome began the season in misery at the plate and in the field.  His reward was another back strain and trip to the Disabled List.  When he came off the list, he went to Florida to work his way into shape.  All he managed to do when returned was go on a tear, culminating in tremendous moonshot to center field last night at Target Field, a pitchers' park.  The home run was number 606 in his storied career.

The smile he flashed in the dugout was part pleasure and part humility as his teammates mobbed him and the Minnesota fans gave him a standing ovation.  There is not a showboating bone in Thome's aging body.

Thome has been DH'ing the last five games, all versus AL clubs in AL ballparks.  When the Phils return to NL play they face a real dilemma.  What are they going to do with Thome and his hot bat?  The strong likelihood is whatever they decide, they won't be including a glove in the deal.  He just can't  field any longer.  Conventional wisdom has it he cannot get around on a fastball any longer.  Maybe not one from Kershaw or Cain, but ordinary mortals are another story.

Sometimes, good guys do finish first.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Nothing Personal

What did you expect from Kyle Kendrick?

Kendrick is a career mediocrity with no real fixed role on a major league pitching staff.  Oh, sure, he'll occasionally throw in a good outing just to keep us off balance, but for the most part he is a lousy pitcher whether coming in as a reliever or spot starter.  It's nothing personal, Kyle.  I'm sure you are a nice fellow, a good husband and father, and a model citizen (as long as you aren't a Republican, that is.)  It's just that you aren't a good pitcher and there's no use waiting for you to finally come around.  You've been at this stuff long enough for us to conclude you just don't have it.

Of course the Phils' other glaring weakness is the bullpen.  They may have a great closer in Jonathan Papelbon, but it is becoming increasingly clear they can't get to him.  Baseball orthodoxy, to which Charlie Manuel subscribes, states you don't bring in your closer on the road in a tie game let alone one in which you trail.  You can't close what is basically not open!  Last night it was clear Charlie sent Kendrick out there and told him he was pitching at least four or five innings no matter how many runs he surrendered.  That's what managers do when they don't trust their bullpens.

In dropping their ninth game in ten starts the Phils tightened their grip on last place in the NL East.  They are nearly unwatchable at this point and when Sarge is doing the "commentary" they are also unlistenable!

On another front, Chase Utley began his rehab assignment last night in single-A Florida by going zero for five including three strikeouts.  Yikes!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

To Sell Or To Buy

'Tis better to sell and build for the future or to buy and salvage the present?

Those are the questions.

The answer should come from Florida shortly.  There, the Chase Utley soap opera, starring the unwitting second baseman, will play out in the heat and humidity.  There is little doubt Utley can hit low minor league pitching; the larger question is whether or not he can field at any level.  Utley holds the key to the Phils' short-term thinking, like it or not.  If he can handle the double duty, the Phils' alleged brain trust will believe they have already improved without making a single trade or sale and will think the season can be salvaged.  Such a conclusion would beg the question of whether or not half an Utley is better than no Utley at all, but the Phils have already tipped their hands by dragging out this will-he-or-won't-he comeback.

Many posters in the local blogosphere doubt the Phils can trade Cole Hamels for high value prospects or current big leaguers.  Their thinking goes like this:  no one is going to rent Hamels for half a season without a guarantee they can sign him long term.  The reasoning is faulty.  Plenty of teams would accept a half-season rental for a chance to hoist the World Series trophy.  Make no mistake about it.  The Phils have done it.  Will they get a major prospect in return instead of a first round draft pick if Hamels elects free agency?  No one knows...until they explore the possibilities, and even then, it's always a crap shoot.  Given the Phils' recent history of first round draft picks in general, I'd take my chances on a trade for prospects with some track record..

Whether or not the Phils will embark on a fire sale is another matter.  Shane Victorino is having a mediocre season but still commands value.  He seems to have worn out his welcome in Philadelphia though no one says as much.  Victorino has reached the status of a player who needs a change of scenery.

The Phils could also opt to move Cliff Lee if for no other reason than to shed salary.  Again, a serious contender is going to take a chance on Lee.  It is less likely the same contender(s) would take on his huge salary unless the Phils picked up a portion of it.

The other joker in the deck is Ryan Howard.  No one knows how well the Big Piece will recover from his Achilles rupture, but nearly everyone who plays a doctor on television and the internet thinks it's much harder for a big, heavy man to come back within a year.

In two weeks the Phils fell from 2.5 games out of first to 8 full games behind front-running Washington.  By the All Star break they easily could be further off the pace making the July 31 trade deadline a time to clean house.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Get Used To It

Everyone who thought Cliff Lee would be winless by mid-June raise your hands.

I thought so.

Numbers are always deceiving, of course, and no number was more deceiving in Lee's case than the sub-3.00 ERA he carried entering yesterday's game at Camden Yards.  With the exception of his scoreless 10-inning wonder at San Francisco, in nearly every game Lee has given up a big hit or two that does him and his mates in.  Yesterday, it was a three-run bomb to an eight hole hitter.

Let's not blame Lee for everything, however.  The Phillies are phumbling too many balls these days.  Defense was once a hallmark of this team but when you have Ty Wigginton , Mini Mart, Hector Luna and Mike Fontenot in the lineup you aren't going to mistake this club for the 1960's-70's Orioles infield of Robinson, Belanger, Johnson and Powell.  Heck, you won't confuse them with the 2012 edition of the O's infield and I can't name one of them!!!!

The Phils now have a lock on last place and we'd better get used to it.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Running On Empty

I go away for six days and everything falls apart.

Pure coincidence.

When the Phils were three games out of first at the end of April everyone said it was early.

When they were five games out at the end of May everyone said they'd get better when their stars returned.

Now that they are seven games everyone is getting a grip on reality.

The beginning of the Lean Years, 21st Century version, are underway.  It was a very good run while it lasted.

By the trade deadline it wouldn't surprise me to see Cole Hamels traded for top flight prospects.  The Phils have zero chance of re-signing him.  Come July, Shane Victorino may be gone (though his stock has fallen).  By July or August we will probably be watching Chase Utley's last hurrah and Ryan Howard's diminished capacity.

Who knows what lies in store for Roy Halladay?  Placido Polanco's contract will expire.

By late July or early August the sell-out streak will be over at Citizens Bank Park.  The end may come sooner.  Once again, it won't be hard to score Phillies tickets.

It was a very nice run.

UPDATE:   Just learned about Freddy Galvis' fractured back.  Terrible news for the youngster.  

Monday, June 04, 2012


Chase Utley is not the answer.  There, I've said it.

The silent second baseman announced in an impromptu "news conference" he was feeling better and would be heading to Florida for his own personal Spring Training.

Good luck, Chase.  We have always admired you but we no longer have high expectations.  You have earned the right to come back at your own pace, and heaven knows we won't you to succeed.  That said, we aren't counting on you for much.  We don't know what position you should or could play.  (Bloggers and commenters suggesting the outfield are, frankly, complete idiots.  He can hardly make the throw from second to first base.) We don't know if you can drive the ball any longer.  We do believe your presence won't be sufficient to right the Phillies' sinking ship.

While we're at it, we don't have particularly high expectations of your infield mate Ryan Howard either. 

The only thing keeping hopes around in these parts is that no one in the rest of the league, all three divisions, is exactly running away from the pack.  The Dodgers, for example, have lost seven of their last ten and still lead second place SF by three games in the West.

What we have in Philadelphia is a coincidence of  several position players having non-career years all at once with the notable exception of Carlos Ruiz.  Placido Polanco and Hunter Pence have bounced back to something closer to their norms though Polanco's run production is woeful and Pence can be very topsy-turvy, especially in the field.  Juan Pierre has been a revelation but for some odd reason his manager refuses to lead him off.  Nearly everyone else is mediocre or worse.

The greatest crime, however, is one beat writer Bob Brookover captured succinctly this AM in his lead in the Inquirer:

The game [against the Marlins] itself was played in 3D - dull, dull, dull.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Another Loss At Home

You could see this loss coming a mile away. 

Joe Blanton surrendered a tremendous home run, not merely an unlikely home run, to his opposite number, Carlos Zambrano, and the Marlins were off and running.  Five runs later, about three too many, Charlie came and got Kentucky Joe.  Charlie is a good manager when he has the horses.  I guess it could be argued anyone can manage when he has the talent to put out there day to day.  The problem this season is that Charlie has neither the talent nor a clue how to use what he's been given.  The lineup is in constant flux or, more accurately said, confusion.

Meanwhile, with few exceptions the Phils were taking one anemic swing after another at Zambrano the pitcher.  Jimmy Rollins, whose averaged crept up the last few days, reverted to his old ways.  It's no longer a  question of whether or not Jimmy is on the downside.  We know that.  Now we have to wonder if he's actually got his head and heart in the game.  I've never seen a more talented player throw away AB's.

The box score will also show Shane Victorino stroked a hit in his last AB, but up until then he put on anther pitiful performance from the left side of the plate.  As I said this morning, Shane should give up the switch-hitting and bat from the right side only.

The loss was their fifteenth at home this season.  The series loss negated the two series wins on the road just prior to this weekend.

The Marlins are going in the opposite direction.  With good pitching, especially from the pen, they will win the Division.

Home Isn't So Sweet

When you have your ace going, stake him to a 3-0 lead and are playing at home on a gorgeous day in front of another sellout crowd of adoring fans, you have to win.

They didn't.

Cole Hamels turned in a second less than impressive start yesterday, losing for only the second time this season (but to the same team) as the Phils wasted a chance to take two straight from the Miami Marlins.  For the season the Phils are 12-14 at home, a pitiful record.

There were plenty of opportunities to win the game yesterday, but as is their wont the Phils wasted most of them.

A few items did stand out to me.

Earlier this season I disparaged any team that would start Juan Pierre in the outfield.  I apologize to you, Juan.  You play hard.  You play well.  You make a difference.

Freddy Galvis has impressed everyone with his efforts this season.  He is, if anything, better than advertised defensively.  Offensively, Freddy looks terrible.  Even his double down the right field line looked like one of the worst swings I've seen in years.   Freddy is striking out a lot and looks very uncomfortable at the plate.

With J-Roll it's always a case of the best of times/worst of times scenario.  He had two hits yesterday, one of which was a swinging infield single that traveled 50 feet.  Otherwise, he struck out on three pitches to lead off the game and exhibited his usual lack of discipline.  We've been waiting for Jimmy to be patient and just put the ball in play for years now.  It ain't gonna' happen.

Hunter Pence is regressing to the mean...fortunately!  He is a solid hitter whose average and production has been rising steadily to his norms.  He will never be mistaken for Roberto Clemente in right field, but he is a hustling player on a team that some times looks like it is sleepwalking.

Carlos Ruiz may have gone hitless yesterday to "drop" his average to .371, but in his first AB he went the other way on a ground ball to drive in a run.  Just a pure pro.

Cole Hamels had batters swinging and missing early, but somehow one knew he didn't have his best stuff and it was only a matter of time before the mashers in the Marlins' lineup would get to him.

Shane Victorino should stop switch-hitting.  Plenty of guys go through their careers batting from one side only.  His splits are terrible and he looks awful batting left-handed.